When he Takes the Stage on November 11th
By Mohamed Alim Hassim
It was one of the most memorable moments of his life. Ben Parag was on the big stage. In Mumbai, India. The show was Dil Hai Hindustani – the Indian equivalent to the American hit show, ‘The Voice’. The lights, the effects, the technical team, the creative people, they were all unbelievable, recalls the 20-year-old Ben, or Benny, as he is affectionately called.
It was surreal. He was singing to thousands in the audience and millions more watching him live on television. After rendering his version of ‘Mitwa’ from the hit movie ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’ he received a prolonged standing ovation.
And, as if all of that was not overwhelming enough, that night he received probably the greatest compliment he has gotten in his entire life. Karan Johar, one of Bollywood’s most successful movie makers — in awe of his talent — remarked, “You have sung this song better than the original singer!”
“I could not believe it. I was like ‘wow, is this how far music is taking me right now?’,” Ben recalls at a press conference at the Radisson Hotel, JFK, on Tuesday, when asked about that moment. Coming from someone like Karan Johar, “it was surreal,” he said.
“That’s a memory that is motivating me to keep going further and further… I got emotional at that moment… it was really something. For someone of his calibre to say something like that … it was one of the greatest days of my life, I can tell you that much.”
Now Ben is getting ready to showcase his talent for his community in a big way, and he promises to give his fans and supporters a “whole new musical experience.”
His concert is slated for Saturday November 11th, at the York College Performing Arts Center in Queens, New York, and Ben says he intend to take the audience on a musical journey like never seen before in this community.
Also performing at the show would be his ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’ co-participant, Fakhrul Razi, who Ben described as extremely talented and “whose vibe is so positive that you would just wanna get up and dance with him.”
Ben added, “We’ve been on the same stage but we never shared the stage together, so we will be doing so for the first time. It’s gonna be different for him and different for me. I am learning arabic-based songs with him. Its gonna be an experience for us and hoping to make it a whole new experience for you guys.”
What are we to expect from Ben at his first concert?
He says the intention is to give the audiance “an international feel and a comtempory feel… And so what you can expect is not what you would normally see … We will be including different genres such as ghazals, some classical, some arabic and a little bit of what Bollywood is showing right now.”
He added, “I am really putting a lot into this show. Uncle Dave, Seema (his sponsors) and everyone is putting a lot into it, and I really want you to come and see and experience something different.”
The concert is being sponsored by Star Plus and the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha (GHDS) – USA Praant.
Mr Dave Thakoordeen, President of the GHDS-USA Praant, told members of the media that his organization is very proud to promote Ben in concert.
“The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, from the very inception in 1974, always tries to promote an encourage our young people … We are very fortunate now to promote our own Ben Parag in New York,” Thakoordeen said, adding “We are here to support him because when our young people excel, our community becomes proud, and our community becomes recognized.”
Tuesday’s press conference was organized by television personality and director of the Divya Jyoti Association, Lakshmee Singh, who hosts the popular show, ‘Let’s Talk with Lakshmee.’
“You are a superstar. You are our superstar and soon the world will get to know you as a superstar and we will help you get there,” Lakshmee told Ben. “I have seen you grow from this nervous little boy to this grown man.”
Ben fielded a wide range of questions from journalists and community members who attended the press conference.
Asked how he feels now that he is come this far in his singing career, he responded, “I think that it feels accomplishing, because I always say that the music you sing or the music you play or perform, will show the blessings of your gurus and your parents, and it makes me feel accomplished knowing that my gurus and my parents feel proud of me.”
How has his life changed from a little boy singing at home and at his mandir, to now performing on the big stage?
“I know now where my path lies and I see singing in a more clear perspective and I also see it in a more spiritual perspective. I finally understand where I stand as a singer and where I need to go. And I know its a long long road ahead,” the young talent, who made it into the top ten of ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’, said.
He thanked God, his parents, his gurus and the community for supporting him all the way. “The community has been supporting me tenfold and I cannot thank them enough for what they have been doing for me. Your love motivates me. The support you gave me, gives me strength,” Ben said.
Where does he go from here?
“My dream is to eventually become a bollywood playback singer and that would be my ultimate goal and I think with the blessings of you all, it will happen,” he said, and, in a more optimistic tone, he added, “In about five years time I am hoping I’d be recording with someone like Vishal-Shekhar, Pritham or Salim-Sulaiman (famous indian musicians), on a project for a movie.”
He believes “positivity is key” and will continue to work towards achieving his goals. As a singer, Ben does not want to be classified into any particular group. “I wanna be a singer to the world, not to one group of people.”
Both his parents – Kumar and Savi Parag – were present at the press conference, and spoke of his dedication and how proud they are of him and their other two children, Ashley and Bobby.